From HaGaon Rav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, The Head of Halacha Yomit
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
Constant Awakening to Yirat Shamayim (G-d-Fearing/Awe of Heaven)
It states in the Parashah, “Hashem spoke to Moshe right after the death of Aaron’s two sons, who brought an [unauthorised] offering before Hashem and died. Hashem said to Moshe: ‘Speak to Aaron your brother, and let him not enter the [inner] sanctuary (Holy of Holies) that is beyond the partition concealing the Ark, so that he may not die, since I appear over the Ark in a cloud’” (Vayikra (16:1-2).
Rashi explains, what does it come to teach us, “after the death of Aaron’s two sons”? He explains as follows. Rebbi Elazar ben Azaryah gave the following analogy. It is akin to a doctor who visited a sick person and said to him don’t eat cold things and don’t sleep in a damp place. The sick person will surely head the doctor’s words. However, another person would be told by the doctor [more directly] don’t eat cold things and don’t sleep in damp places so that you don’t die like so and so! This person will certainly be way more cautious with the doctor’s advice because he highlighted the dangers in these things and how someone died.
Likewise, Hashem said to Moshe “after the death of Aaron’s two sons”, that he should caution Aaron that he shouldn’t enter the Holy of Holies at just anytime and He mentioned the death of Aaron’s two sons who died in the Holy of Holies. Now Aaron will be more careful with Moshe’s words!
This seems astonishing! Aaron the Cohen “Holy to Hashem”, did he require a unique warning to be afraid of being punished! If the Torah is able to [merely] indicate a “threat”, then this is what the Torah does! [Yet here] it isn’t content with even a regular warning even for Aaron!
From here we learn a moral lesson, which applies to many people in our time. When they are advised by the rav to listen to the Torah, to study mussar, to strengthen in yirat shamayim, they respond that they already have enough yirat shamayim! They don’t need to strengthen themselves!
Let us think, that the Holy Torah reveals to us, that even a great person like Aaron required a unique strengthening as much as is possible to strengthen in, more and more yirat shamayim. If so, even more so that regular people require unique strengthening in yirat shamayim! Everyone requires reinforcement!
Our chachamim already warned (Yoma 72b), woe to the talmidei chachamim who study Torah and have no yirat shamayim! Meaning, even talmidei chachamim, who study Torah all day, if they won’t also engage in the study of mussar and yirat shamayim, they are susceptible to fall into the category “they don’t have yirat shamayim”!
Therefore our chachamim cautioned that it is forbidden to study Torah from a chacham who doesn’t behave appropriately, as the passuk states, “For the lips of the Cohen should safeguard knowledge, and people should seek teaching from his mouth; for he is an agent of Hashem, Master of Legions” (Malachi 2:7). If the rav is like an agent of Hashem, Master of Legions, they should study Torah from his mouth and if he isn’t akin to an agent of Hashem then shouldn’t study Torah from him!
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef ztvk”l (Halichot Olam 8:366) writes that therefore every person should fix time every day to study mussar, or to hear words of mussar, in order to strengthen himself in yirat Hashem. He added in the following words:
“I also remember my early years, in my youth when we used to get up early and go to the Bet Kenesset “Ohel Rachel” an hour before shacharit in order to study mussar, with holy feelings, the holy work “Reishit Chochmah”, in on group with my dear friend, the exceptional chacham more precious than gold, from amongst the many righteous people, the elevated tzaddik, pursuer of tzedakah and kindness, Rebbi Yaakov Dweck HaCohen zt”l (d. c. 1970), our eyes were drenched in tears, with a broken and depressed heart. Even during the days of the British curfew, we didn’t desist from going to the Bet Kenesset to study mussar and Hashem saved us from them. We felt a spiritual uplift from the holy words of the Reishit Chochmah.”
May Hashem merit us to study His holy Torah for its sake (with no ulterior motive) and to merit the many, and to encourage Torah study and observance.